The Paris of South America

Trip Start Jan 19, 2006
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Trip End Jan 19, 2007


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Sunday, November 26, 2006

Friday
Up late we head out in the heat (about 29 degrees), the city is bustling and a marked contrast to Antarctica or even Ushuaia! We wander around through a park with lots of heart sculptures decorated differently and then towards the beautiful old train station, Torres de Londres (like a mini Big Ben, but sadly closed to climb up). The architecture is very Parisien as are the very wide avenues and boulevards. We buy our bus tickets for a couple of days time to Mendoza and have lunch in a canteen which sets us back about 3 quid for a huge meal and drink. It is so cheap here - we love it!
We then get the metro to Congreso via a line with wooden olde carriages which was cool. The Congress is a massive imposing building in a huge square. We were hoping to go inside but its closed as an impending demonstration is looming and it is therefore surrounded in barricades and some police. We walk through the square and down to the Broadway section of BA to see equally naff plays as you would at home. We get to Teatro Colon which is a 2,500 seater theatre and beautiful to boot. There is an opera on tomorow which we hope to go to but find out its actually somewhere else and fully booked til Sunday so bang goes that plan. Then off to change our central america flights again so we get there a day early via the Obelisk.

More walking back to the hotel where we ditch our huge pile of laundry nearby and then walk to the Galerias Pacifico shopping centre which has lovely ceiling frescos and can you believe it a Christmas tree? It really doesnt feel like we are near christmas to us! (Am sure people are having that conversation the world over. Boring eh?) We try some Freddos icecream the best here apparently (weighing ourselves this morning has obviously not shocked our system sufficiently!) and it is excellent stuff. Then go to Plaza de Mayo to see the Cathedral which looks more like the Bank of England from outside but is great inside and we watch people queueing for confession, round the saure is the Governors house and the infamous Casa Rosada with balcony but without Evita. A lot of it is barricaded of as another demonstration/festival is going on in the square which appears to last most of the weekend. After some internet we head back to the shopping centre for a non-existent tango show at 20.00 but instead see the tail end of one outside. Feel very scruffy in such a smart city but am temporarily boosted by being offered a perfume sample from a salesperson until I see it is Burberry. They probably just think I am a chav.

We ponder whether or not to go to one at another restaurant but it is v touristy plus there is a great tenedor libre and parilla up the road for 9 pesos each (6 pesos to the pound). Great food inc calamari, whitebait and steaks etc plus desert. With wine our whole meal costs a fiver. Think we may return.

Off to bed for an early night and watch a horror film which doesnt stop us sleeping at all. My feet hurt and we are shattered.

Saturday
Up to wander another district of BA, Recoleta a bit to the north of the city, although its all pretty compact. Get the bus up there and visit a huge modern sculpture of a flower which is cool and then through some crafty markets into the main area which is pretty touristy. There are plenty of restaurants around here and pavement cafes including our favourite, McDonalds. We opt for a small place and sit outside and pretend its sunny today.

Later visit the church and the Recoleta Cemetry which has huge monumental graves. There was/is obviously plenty of money around for the rich to blow on things when they are dead. Obviously visit Eva Peron (Evitas) grave although I am ashamed to say I know very little about here. Will have to read up on it at some point.

Then head further north to the Polo stadium (if thats what they are called). It is currently the open championships and we queue up for tickets that set us back a couple of quid with the masses, although its not phenomenally busy. We sit down and then realise we know absolutely NOTHING about polo. We proceed to spend the next hour trying to work out what the hell is going on. Some research beforehand may have helped. It appears that each team has 5 players (yes, we can count) and that after each goal they swop ends, although this was not always the case. There are several breaks for some reason and then it all stopped. We thought it was the end, but it wasnt. We decided to pretend it was the end and left feeling we had learnt sufficient about the game. I dont think it finished long after. The game was (if anyone is even vaguely interested)
25/11/2006 (16:30) La Dolfina vs Indios Chapaleufú II Score 15 - 14

Then off to a supermarket where we bought some cheapo champagne and tried to chill it before heading down to Puerto Madero (I think its called that) a renovated river area a bit like the docks in Bristol, or dare I say it, Swansea (well ish anyway). We sat on a park bench as the sunset admiring a modern bridge resembling the blinking eye in Newcastle and glugged our champers from the bottle. Classy as ever. But we felt good compared to all the other people sitting on tables 100 metres away that had paid about 100 times the price.

Walked home looking at the expensive menus on our way before heading to the pedestrianised shopping streets and the huge white obelisk to take some night photos. Then went to another buffet place which was expensive at 10 pesos but was even better than last nights. Dangerous.

Then went to see The Departed with Robert de Niro, Leonardo D Caprio and Matt Damon which was pretty good. A very long day again. Dave has got out of tango lessons again but I have to say my feet still hurt too much.

Sunday
Is great to be in a city for the weekend as it sort of reminds you of home, waking up to empty streets on a Sunday morning, plus this weekend there are lots of sport things going on which is great for us. We get the bus to La Boca west of town and a more deprived neighbourhood in parts. Start off at the dock area and then to Caminato which is famous for multicoloured buildings, craft stalls and tango in the streets. Had a nice feel to it although quite touristy. Then walked towards the Boca Juniors stadium which felt a bit more edgy

Boca Stadium Photo :
The man in the Boca shop is v unhelpful but tells us all tickets are sold out (not sure I believed him) so we bought some from a tout for about a tenner each. Need to be back nearly 2 hours before the match apparently to get a space!

Then went on walking down to San Telmo through the car boot sale in the park and then down into the heart of the antiques market. Felt like we were in Portobello road at home. Kept wishing my parents were there as they would have loved loads of the stuff! After lots of wandering and realising there was no real point as looking much further as chandeliers are not very en vogue for backpackers we went to lunch at La Vieja Rotisseria which was pretty packed. Full of locals and tourists and we ordered the same as the couple next to us and some obligatory wine and got chatting to them. They were v friendly and nice although didnt understand all that they were saying. He was a Boca fan and obviously pleased we were going. She told me that we spoke better Spanish than them - think they meant in the purest sense of the language rather than our fluency!

After lunch dumped our camera etc back at the hotel and headed back for the footie. Was getting very busy even though it was 2 hours before the match. I was quite nervous about potential trouble but neednt have worried. We bought some Boca clothing so we looked slightly less like gringos, not sure it worked. The stands we were in were 2/3 full by the time we got there and we were about to watch Boca play Colon. Got a great view though and watched the stadium fill up and the excitement mount. They sing great football songs here and are really into it. As the match started and ´we´ scored the excitement mounted but even when Colon scored a penalty the crowd continued singing the song they were on without missing a beat. Football was not quite premiership but atmosphere was better. We had to leave before the end to get our bus in time for Mendoza but saw 3 goals but Boca managed to score another 2 after we left!
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Back to hotel to get bags and then to the bus station we got a cama bus for Mendoza. Leather armchair seats, dinner with wine (still cant believe that!) and best of all, on board bingo. What more could you want in life? Oh and we arrived pretty much on time!
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